are the cutest little things ever! Many years ago, when my father was still alive, I had envisioned a miniature gingerbread house to sell as gifts to anyone interested in purchasing one for their holiday celebrations, or to give as a small token of love. I liked the idea of making a gingerbread house, but not mass-producing full-size houses, which I knew no one would pay for ( at least not here where I live!). So I asked my Dad to make me a tiny template, just like the large one, but scaled down. My dad could do anything…fix almost anything, reproduce anything. I have been using this template – mini_ging.bread_template for years now. Last weekend I taught a gingerbread house class in my pink Retro-Vintage kitchen and it is alway’s one of my favorite classes to teach. This year it was for “tweens” and their parents. It was so nice to see families teaming up for the single purpose of building an edible house!
When I was a young girl my mother used the recipe book below for our gingerbread house. I’m not sure why, but every time I look at the book I think of Hansel and Gretel, and since those are German names, I assumed that the gingerbread house must have originated there as well. I wonder if that’s what my mother was thinking ? That a German gingerbread house would be far better than an American version? Well, I have tried other recipes, and I alway’s come back to this one; it makes the kitchen smell amazing, and the gingerbread is just smashing dunked in tea or coffee. Although it is thicker, it has somewhat of a biscotti consistency, and is redolent with heady spices like ginger, cinnamon and cloves, plus just the right kick of lemon zest and juice to add a perfect compliment to the gingerbread, that I now cannot live without.I would have to say that my second favorite thing about gingerbread houses (Other than the concept of eating yourself out of house and home). Is the CANDY! I’m not a big hard candy person as far as eating candy, but I have alway’s been and will alway’s be fascinated with the vibrant colors, patterns and textures of candy.
My Mother found candies that looked a lot like the Italian blown glass beads; small pinwheels of bright colors, sometimes even mimicking tiny flowers within the candies interior. When you held them up to the light, they looked like intricate stained glass patterns, and there were alway’s several different colors and patterns.
There are actually some on the gingerbread house in the picture above; all around the base of the house. I am pretty sure you can get these candies at “ The Vermont Country Store“. I find lots of nostalgic goodies from years gone by in that catalog (or in their online store). Although I couldn’t find those, I DID find some incredibly beautiful candies at Epcot in “Japan”. I spent more money in Japan than anywhere else in Disney. The candies are smaller, but they also came with the bonus of some small, cute, very handmade- looking ( because they are!) lollipops, perfect for lollipop trees. The other candies I found in Japan were small spikey little pastel colored balls, that looked kind of like snowballs.
These candies look magical to me..somewhere between Willie Wonka, Dr.Seuss and a penny candy store.
I am SO in love with these lollipops…..sigh.
The next load of candy was purchased at Wegman’s, and “Back -to- Basics”. Back -to- Basics is in the town I was born and raised in, and most of my readers probably won’t be visiting there anytime soon, but I thought I would give them a shout out since I purchase a lot of goodies there and appreciate them a lot! It’s my “Go-To” store for unique candies, pretzels and chocolates of all kinds.
So Left to right (pictures) and left to right ( order of candies):
PHOTO#1: Candy Rocks,( for fireplaces, and stone paths) small gumdrops, super-mini marshmallows (snowballs,snowmen) Sour Gummy Bears ( for potted plants or just as themselves) Mini hard Christmas candies (for presents, pathway’s, or the roof) Raspberry and Blackberry candies(they taste JUST like the real thing!).
Photo #2: Mini sugar snowflakes, silver and gold dragees, Red and Green sprinkles, Mini candy cane sprinkles, CENTER: jewel-toned candy coated sunflower seeds ( Christmas lights) and wheel-shaped gumdrops ( great for wreaths or wheels for a gingerbread car!)
Picture #3: (top to bottom) Pine tree shaped pretzels, super-thin pretzel rods, Mini Shredded Wheat
Picture# 4: THREW YOU OFF on this one huh? That’s my Conure “Pistachio” checking out the extreme sour roll-ups, coincidentally, he has all of the same colors as the candy strip! I sometimes use these for siding. I also cut away the colored strips separately to use as ribbons for wreaths and outdoor decor ( see gingerbread house wreath).
Let’s not forget the sprinkles and fancy sugars!
From Left to Right: Edible Sparkles and edible silver stars, Rainbow Sugar ( my favorite sugar), Edible Glitter, silver and gold dragees, mini candy cane sprinkles, mini snowflake sprinkles with a few mini hearts thrown in for good measure!
1 Tbs softened butter
6-1/4 C. all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. Double-Acting Baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground Cardamom
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 C. honey
1/4 C. dark molasses
1-3/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. ( 1/2 stick) butter
1/3 C. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- Cut out the cardboard templates for the gingerbread house/s using matt board or very heavy card stock ( I use the same templates every year).
- Preheat the oven to 325°
- Lightly coat 2 small 11-x-17 inch cookie sheets or 2 each 1/2 size sheet pans with the tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the flour into the sheet pans and tap and swish until both the bottom and sides are covered with the flour.
- Sift 6 cups flour,baking powder, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl;set aside
- In a heavy 4-5 quart saucepan, bring the honey, molasses, sugar and butter to a boil over high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest.
- Cool 15 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl of a 4 or 5 quart mixer, Beat in 2 cups of the flour-and-spice mixture. Beat in the egg and egg yolk and then beat in the remaining flour -and-spice mixture.
- Flour your hands lightly and lightly knead the dough until completely mixed, pliable and still a bit sticky. If it’s too moist, add a bit more flour 1 tablespoon at a time.
- DO NOT CUT THE PIECES OUT BEFORE BAKING!!
- Divide the dough between the two pans. I crumbled mine
- and then rolled the dough evenly into the pan using a small cylindrical food coloring spray bottle ( you can use anything round and cylindrical, but rolling pins are typically too large to fit into the corners and get a nice even dough all the way around). Force the dough into the corners and even the dough.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until firm
- Let cool only 4-5 minutes or until able to be handled.
- Using the templates, cut out the pieces fitting as many templates onto the surface ( like a puzzle) using all available space.
- Do not be tempted to cut the house pieces by ” eyeing it” it won’t work! CUT WHILE WARM!!! All of these templates are measured perfectly so that the house fits together. Make sure you make at least two of everything before you proceed to the next set of templates ( don’t get stuck with 11 roofs, 5 sides and 3 ends!). Maximize your dough! You should be able to make at least 10 small houses with this dough. I made two medium houses and six small houses, with scraps left over for nibbling on, or turning into doors, shutters, circles, chimneys etc.
- If you want windows, now is the time to cut them out, not when they have cooled. Be careful with the miniature houses, they crack easily. I used a very sharp paring knife to cut out the windows, and I eye-balled it, however, you can use small round cutters, aspic cutters, or Garde Manger cutters. Cut a criss-cross pattern diagonally before removing the center piece.
- Cutting it in this way puts less stress on the exterior wall. Save the cut-outs for other things like window boxes or benches.
- Set the pieces aside and cool completely.
DECORATING THE SIDES
Before assembling your house, decorate the sides and gabled ends to your liking.
You may also decorate the roof as long as it’s completely dry and not delicate before assembling ( I decorate the roof AFTER applying it to the top of the house).
I use the following royal icing recipe doubled to make a lot of icing because I like a lot of snow around my houses.
Royal Icing Recipe
2 egg whites
2-1/2 C. confectioner’s sugar ( powdered sugar) I like Domino because I dislike sifting.
- In a large bowl beat the egg whites on high until frothy. Add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it’s all added. Turn the mixer to high and beat 5 minutes or until the icing is thick, and holds a stiff peak. Scrape the bowl often.
- Fit a small pastry bag with a small star or round pastry tip, or use a small paper cone ( which I prefer). If you do not know how to make a paper cone, use a small Ziploc sandwich bag and cut a tiny corner off. Fill with 1/2 cup of icing
TO MAKE WINDOW GLASS
- There are several ways to create the illusion of glass for your house windows. Gelatin sheets are my favorite because they actually look like leaded glass windows with diamonds embossed on them. You can purchase them at a specialty food shop or online.
- If you really want to GET INTO THIS PROJECT…melt about 1/2 cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. stir to melt the sugar, wash down the sides of the pan with water and a pastry brush ( to minimize the potential of crystallization of the sugar). Continue to cook until the sugar turns a light amber color. Be careful at this point because it’s very easy to burn
- ( DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM cooking CARAMEL…EVER!).
Immediately pour small blobs of the caramel onto a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil ( NOT regular foil) Make sure the blobs are slightly larger than the window. If they are too large after they have set, you can trim the edges carefully with kitchen scissors. cool completelyAttach the windows to the gingerbread using royal icing on the BACK side of the window. Pipe thin window panes over the caramel on the outside of the window pane and let dry at least 30 minutes before handling ( do the windows first).
To make stained glass windows,( Which are on my larger gingerbread house at the end of this post), crush jewel-toned colors of hard candies in a plastic bag with a mallet. Line a baking sheet with NON-STICK aluminum foil ( not regular foil). Sprinkle the candy powder into the hole of the window ( with the window right-side up for a back-set window). Use a random or planned arrangement. Place in a 200° oven for about 5 minutes ( watch closely with the oven light on). when the candies have melted into a pool of color that is even and smooth, remove them from the oven and let cool completely. After cool, peel the gingerbread carefully from the foil.
To Create IciclesTo create icicles, I crushed up clear rock candy with a mallet, and then sorted through it to find pieces that looked longer and thinner than the other pieces and put them aside.
I then used royal icing to adhere them to the underside of the windows, using a pair of special decorating tweezers made by Wilton ( I can’t live without these things!) I made cute little window boxes by using a pretel stick for the window box and then coloring some royal icing green. I placed the icing in a parchment cone and snipped the end off at two angles to form what looks like an arrow. When piped out of the bag it takes on the appearance of a leaf. I then placed some little red ball sprinkles on with tweezers, and then sprinkled on some green jimmies for contrast. I put a little more snow on top and then sprinkled it with edible glitter so that it sparkles more. These are the windows for the larger house. ( see below)
For the smaller house, you can simply pipe on the windows and doors, and add a bit of flourish around the sides.
This window has a caramel background, and gumpaste shutters made by using a fondant cutter(below)
Have Fun!Decorate the sides using candies and sprinkles( pictured above).Use shredded wheat for a thatched roof look, or other candies. Sometimes it’s even pretty just to have icing and nothing else on the top of the roofs, especially if you are a minimalist ( which I AM NOT when it comes to gingerbread houses!) Using gumpaste tools, make decorative borders for a gingerbread look for the gables and sides of your house. Use a small bit of gumpaste rolled out using a little powdered sugar. Roll it thinly. Take out the small flower cut-outs and use them as a decoration on another part of your house!
White Chocolate Glue
I use melted, non-tempering white chocolate ( like Merckens Wafers) to glue the pieces together. Use a small paper cone to apply the glue or just dip the sides like I did here.
Hold them together until they are solid. ( it helps to do this part in a cold room ( but keep the chocolate over a hot water bath so the chocolate doesn’t seize up before you even get started). I begin with one gabled end and a side, then I add the other gabled end and then the last side. Glue the pieces together with the outside wall inside of the gabled wall, not on the outside.
After glueing the pieces together, you may then go in with a pastry bag to add royal icing for additional structure. If you plan on storing this yearly ( until the mice eat it) make sure to use the royal icing, or the chocolate will melt in hotter climates and your house will come tumbling down.
I used a small crystal cake platter to display my house on, and it worked wonders as a base. The clear base will allow me to put lights underneath the cake pedestal and the light will shine up through the windows.
After the sides and roofs are done being decorated and they have dried properly, you may assemble the house using the white chocolate and then the royal icing. Do not try to use royal icing for the roof unless you want to stand there for a century. Use the white chocolate and save yourself the grief; go in after it’s solid to add more royal icing for structure and to insulate the chocolate against possible heat. Here the gabled wall is secured to the plate with white chocolate before adding the next side wall; this makes is much simpler to construct.
Visions of Sugarplums…
- Mimi’s Attic…for me?…”Happy Hour”
- Featured in ” Where Women Cook” Autumn, 2012
- marzipan strawberries-miniature
- The Vintage Motherload!
- Miniature Croissants for Easter-Marions Vintage Bakeshop
- Miniature Cinnamon Rolls and Caramel Rolls-Marion’s Vintage Bakeshop
- Miniature Buche De Noel-Marion’s Vintage Bakeshop
- Miniature Gingerbread House-Marion’s Vintage Bakeshop
- Miniature Pumpkin Pies-Marion’s Vintage Bakeshop
- Cupcake Cereal and Nostalgia
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